Alnwick District in the Great War Henry Alder Common - Resources

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1 Alnwick District in the Great War Henry Alder Common - Resources

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3 H.A.Common: His Home Battalion was 1/2nd Bt. but at his death he was attached to the 1/4th Bt. BATTALION...approx 1000 men under a Lt. Colonel...4 COMPANIES of 250 men,each commanded by a captain...platoon under a subaltern/sergeant of 60 men...section under a corporal of 15 men. BRIGADE under a brigadier general, consisting of 4 infantry battalions...after 1918, 3 battalions. DIVISION under a major general, comprising 3 infantry brigades...at least 12,000 men... BUT... most Divisions added on a pioneer battalion/engineers/artillery/transport/medical units... 20,000 men in all. CORPS...comprising from 2 to 6 Divisions...40, ,000 men. ARMY...consisting of a Woolworth s Pick and Mix- depending on the job in hand...200,000 men. Henry s battalion was fighting with Rawlinson s 4th Army, as was Mark Nettleship. They were killed in different facets of the same battle. They would have undoubtedly known one another and would probably have been friends. Cemetery Record COMMON, HENRY ALDER Second Lieutenant Date of Death Age Regiment Country Grave/ Memorial Ref: 04/10/ King's Own Scottish Borderers United Kingdom Panel 6. Name Rank Service Number Cemetery/ Memorial Name VIS-EN- ARTOIS MEMOR Vis-En-Artrois Cemetery

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6 The Battle Henry Alder Common Died In: The last great challenge of the war was a series of assaults on the Siegfriedstellung-The Hindenburg Line. This was the last great defensive line defended by the Germans. In August the 3rd Army, commanded by General Sir Julian Bing, and the 4th Army, commanded by General Henry Rawlinson, drove the Germans out of the old Somme battlefields-at a great cost in casualties. The enormous gains made by the German Army after March 21st were recaptured and the German Army was routed. Initially, German stormtroopers, assisted by heavy artillery, gas and flamethrowers, had come very close to defeating the British.The problem was they could not consolidate their gains. Their assaults had foundered because of a lack of war materiel, poor lines of supply, lack of replacements and the beginnings of dissent and dissatisfaction with the direction the war was taking-especially with non-specialist soldiers and the civilian population back in Germany. By the end of August, the German Army had retreated to their Alamo, a well constructed but incomplete line of defence on the Hindenburg Line. They had plenty of time to construct this. The problem was they had not learned the lessons of using fixed lines of defence. Technology had progressed enormously since the old days of trench warfare. Very accurate artillery fire formed a new standard as a precursor to infantry assaults yard creeping barrages initiated these assaults. Infantry was not as exposed and expended as it had been. Tanks in great numbers were sent in before the infantry to deal with redoubts and troublesome machine gun positions; wire did not present anything like the problem that it had been. In the German rear, British heavy artillery had the ability to target and destroy German field artillery, assembly positions, reserve positions and lines of supply. The Allies had complete mastery of the air which meant that all these aspects could be reported upon and targeted. The Battle of St.Quentin Canal 29th September-2nd October, The 4th Army was given the task of breaking through the Hindenburg Line between St.Quentin and Verdhuille. The St.Quentin Canal was an integral part of of that line. High explosive shells destroyed the German Headquarters and many of their heavy gun positions. Much of the German field defences were also destroyed. For good measure gas shells were deployed after the high explosive. The attack was in 2 phases; in the northern and southern sectors of a 12 mile front. In the north the attack began with a very effective creeping barrage, followed by tanks and machine gun fire. In this sector part of the canal was tunnelled and heavy fighting took place in that network. American Divisions took part in this,taking heavy casualties. Our boy was in the southern sector of operations and it was here he was gravely wounded. The

7 assault was spectacularly successful. German defences were overrun, the canal was crossed and the bridge at RIQUEVAL was captured intact...(famous photograph). The cost in lives was enormous, but The Hindeburg Line was broken, 5000 prisoners taken and many heavy guns captured, with three and a half miles of enemy territory captured. This battle demonstrated to the Germans that their once mighty war machine was a spent force and their only option was to sue for peace. The Regimental Museum in Berwick has battalion diaries which can be seen. As I have already stated, all battalion diaries follow the same protocols: enlisted men never named or identified; officers killed and wounded usually named. After 1918, men and officers could be sent anywhere to plug the holes. You will remember Lloyd George would not sanction the replacements that Haig had asked for, because of the public outcry at the high casualty rates. Anyway...back to our boy. He was killed fighting in the Battle of Thiepval Ridge. 26th September-30th September, Henry s battalion was part of Gough s Reserve Army, given the task of taking part in a frontal assault on Thiepval Ridge-which had been a major obstacle since the beginning of the Somme Battle on 1st July. The Germans had turned the chateau and village into an impenetrable redoubt...( Where the Memorial stands today). Every house in the village had been destroyed, but their cellars (144 of them) had been turned into machine gun positions which were formidable. 13 tanks led the assault followed by mass infantry assaults by the 18th Division, of which Henry was part. 18th Division casualties...3,615 1st Caadian Division casualties...6,254...they had longer exposure to a protracted battle from the1st-30th September, of which this smaller engagement was part.

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